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Many Can Wait for Fertility Treatments

Many Can Wait for Fertility Treatments

WebMD Health News

July 5, 2002 -- Patience is not only a virtue parents try to instill in their children, but it's one that eager parents-to-be should also remember when trying to conceive. A new report shows many healthy couples grow concerned about fertility issues too quickly and may turn to assisted fertility techniques unnecessarily.

The study found most healthy couples who are unsuccessful in getting pregnant after a year of trying will succeed during the second year. And unless there are known reasons for a couple not to conceive naturally within a year, researchers say couples and their doctors should wait before turning to assisted fertility techniques.

Based on information from 782 couples from seven European cities, a team of U.S. researchers found that even when the woman was in her late 30s, less than 10% of couples failed to conceive after two years of trying, unless the male partner was over 40.

Researchers say the time required to conceive naturally increases with the age of the woman.

"But, regardless of age, most of the women who failed to conceive within the first 12 cycles conceived in the next 12," says study researcher David Duncan, MD, in a news release. "Only 3% of 19 to 26-year-olds, 6% of 27 to 34-year-olds, and 9% of 35 to 39-year-olds failed to conceive in the second year, provided the male partner was aged under 40."

Duncan, of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in North Carolina, presented his findings this week at the annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.

The study found the age of the man became particularly important to conception once the woman reached her late 30s. The percentage of first-year failures rose from 18% to 28% among women aged 35 to 39 if the man was over 40. After the second year, that figure rose from 9% with men under 40 to 16% with men over 40.

Duncan says fertility varies greatly from couple to couple, and many couples with below average but normal fertility may fail to conceive within a year. So it may be appropriate to delay any assisted reproduction until a couple has failed to conceive naturally after 18 to 24 months of trying.

He says it's important not to intervene too soon with assisted reproduction because fertility treatments can increase the risk of multiple pregnancies, pregnancy complications, low birth weight, major birth defects, and long-term disability among surviving infants.

Of course, this is a decision that has to be made between couples and their doctor. It's still a good idea to get in touch with a fertility specialist after a year of trying to get pregnant to make sure there is no known cause for the difficulty.

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